Neurotrophin signal transduction by the Trk receptor

J Neurobiol. 1994 Nov;25(11):1404-17. doi: 10.1002/neu.480251108.


The initial event in the neuronal differentiation of PC12 cells is the binding of the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) to the Trk receptor. This interaction stimulates the intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity of Trk, initiating a signalling cascade involving the phosphorylation of intracellular proteins on tyrosine, serine, and threonine residues. These signals are then in turn propagated to other messengers, ultimately leading to differentiation, neurotrophin-dependent survival, and the loss of proliferative capacity. To transmit NGF signals, NGF-activated Trk rapidly associates with the cytoplasmic proteins, SHC, PI-3 kinase, and PLC-gamma 1. These proteins are involved in stimulating the formation of various second messenger molecules and activating the Ras signal transduction pathway. Studies with Trk mutants indicate that the activation of the Ras pathway is necessary for complete differentiation of PC12-derived cells and for the maintenance of the differentiated phenotype. Trk also induces the tyrosine phosphorylation of SNT, a specific target of neurotrophic factor activity in neuronal cells. This review will discuss the potential roles of Trk and the proteins of the Trk signalling pathways in NGF function, and summarize our attempts to understand the mechanisms used by Trk to generate the many phenotypic responses of PC12 cells to NGF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases